Insight from Boyd on Bringing Our Presuppositions to Scripture

I’m in the middle of Greg Boyd’s excellent book “God of the Possible,” an introduction to the “Open View of God” which I find quite compelling, but which I’m sorry to say some of my Evangelical friends have flatly rejected as heresy. I’ll address the Open View in future posts, but for now I wanted to share a point he makes regarding our interpretation of Scripture.

Boyd clearly espouses a tighter view of Scriptural inspiration than I do–that is, he consistently refers to the whole Biblical text as the Word of God rather than searching for the Word of God WITHIN the Biblical text as I propose. Nevertheless I am in full agreement with the following statement (p 56-57 of the paperback edition), which he makes in partial response to the objection that if God regrets a decision he has made, he “must not be perfectly wise”:

. . .it is better to allow Scripture to inform us regarding the nature of divine wisdom than to reinterpret an entire motif in order to square it with our preconceptions of divine wisdom. If God says he regretted a decision, and if Scripture elsewhere tells us that God is perfectly wise, then we should simply conclude that one can be perfectly wise and still regret a decision. Even if this is a mystery to us, it is better to allow the mystery to stand than to assume that we know what God’s wisdom is like and conclude on this basis that God can’t mean what he clearly says. (emphasis mine)

This quote highlights a problem that I believe pervades a great deal of theology, both modern and of long standing. Two observations that I think are key:

  1. Our theology is far too intolerant of mystery. We seem to operate under the assumption that unless our system of belief has a complete explanation for every conceivable objection, we have not got it right. I regard it as the height of arrogance that finite humans could presume to fully understand the ways of an infinite God, yet in questions such as God’s sovereignty we insist on explaining and analyzing it as if we were in fact the arbiters of God’s authority.
  2. The plain reading of Scripture is frequently far simpler (and, I submit, more likely to be true) than the contortions we force it through in order to fit our systematic theology. While it by no means always holds true, we would do well to start with the assumption that if a simple explanation fits the facts (or in this case, the Scriptural texts), it makes no sense to look for a more complicated one.

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